Access Denied: Group Urges Enforcement of Shoreline Access Laws
Representative Angus McKelvey of Maui is calling on the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to protect public access to Kāʻanapali Beach. In a letter to department director Suzanne Case, Rep. McKelvey urges the state to “step up and take responsibility” for protecting the public use of the area.
The request comes amid complaints by beach users who say resorts and vendors have been reserving space for hotel guests on public land with cabanas and beach umbrellas. The Maui group Nā Papa‘i o Wawae ‘Ula‘ula is advocating for the public’s right to access West Maui shorelines by appealing to the county and state to enforce shoreline access laws.
County Communications Director Rod Antone responded to our request for comment saying beaches are state jurisdiction. Maui Now solicited comment from DLNR on the claims last week, but no formal response has been issued as of publication.
“Reports include resorts, and/or vendors, placing unused chairs, umbrellas, and other traditionally rented seaside gear along much of the beach to ‘reserve’ space for hotel guests,” said Rep. McKelvey (West Maui, Māʻalaea, North Kīhei). “Our public beaches are legally protected and the public’s access should be unfettered. Attempts of this nature to reserve beach space disallows the general public’s use and enjoyment of that space, and is unacceptable.”
Maui resident, Kai Nishiki who is a member of Nā Papa‘i o Wawae ‘Ula‘ula, started the “Access Denied! Surf?Fish?Dive?” Facebook page in an effort to reclaim shoreline access points on Maui.
She said resorts are “presetting” chairs, cabanas and umbrellas on the public beach. “Rules state a guest much present, chair marked with the renters name and duration of rental, and the chair must be removed if guest leaves or is left unattended for more than an hour,” said Nishiki in an email communication with Maui Now. She claims the rules are not being followed and wants enforcement action to be taken.
McKelvey said the issue is especially significant to him not only because he is a State Representative, but is also a life-long Maui resident, born and raised in Lahaina.
“I have spent my life frequenting these very same beaches. While we want to support our visitor industry, and related activities, the right of the public access use at all times is paramount,” McKelvey said in his letter. “We have mechanisms already in place to ensure fair and equal public access. Enforcement is the key missing component. As such, it is paramount that existing laws and regulations be vigorously enforced by your department.”
According to Rep. McKelvey, news coverage of these incidents has said the DLNR does not have the manpower to enforce the regulations within the Ocean Recreation Management Area.
“While I can appreciate and support the need for more resources to adequately enforce all areas of Hawaiʻi, the ORMA of Kāʻanapali is under the sole authority of the DLNR. Because we – the legislature – fund management of these areas through the budget, it is incumbent upon your department to enforce these rules,” he said.
McKelvey asked that the DNRL investigate the recent incidents and that the results be sent to his office.